Fady Dagher, who was named Thursday as the head of the Montreal police service, says he wants police in the city to operate with humility and to be better informed about immigration issues.
Dagher rose to local fame in recent years for his work as chief of police in Longueuil, Que., on Montreal's South Shore, where he implemented a model of community policing that attracted the attention of the provincial government and police services across the country.
"In the 1980s and 1990s, we served a population that was much more homogenous, but in 2022 we have to be able to serve all populations," Dagher said Thursday morning.
"We have to be a police service that is much more inclusive, that understands the issues marginalized populations face, that understands immigration issues.… A police service that works with humility, modesty and on an equal footing with community and institutional partners."
Dagher holds a master's degree in business administration for managers from McGill-HEC Montréal and has a 25-year history with the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM), where he worked his way up to assistant chief.
In 2015, he was among the finalists for the position of chief, but Philippe Pichet was picked instead. Dagher went on to become chief of the Longueuil police in 2017.
Quebec's public security minister, Geneviève Guilbault, called Dagher's approach to community policing in Longueuil avant-garde in June 2021 and, as she announced a hefty provincial investment in the program, said she hoped other municipalities and police forces would adopt it.
Dagher's project, which began as a pilot project in 2019, was called RÉSO. Its goal was for certain officers to work within specific communities and to get to know them well enough to be able refer vulnerable populations to resources other than the police before matters became criminal.
Sylvain Caron announced his retirement as chief of the SPVM in March. Sophie Roy has served as interim chief since Caron stepped down for personal reasons.
A selection committee was formed to pick the new chief. It was made up of three senior civil servants and three elected municipal officials.
Now that the selection has been made, the appointment will have to be ratified by the Montreal agglomeration council and then, the city's executive committee.
Then it moves up to the Quebec government's cabinet to ratify, meaning the appointment will likely be finalized in early 2023, Radio-Canada reports.
Finally, a protocol ceremony will be held for the transfer of power from Caron to Dagher.
The head of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, which has actively criticized Montreal's force for racist behaviour — such as profiling — welcomed the news.
"This is a historical appointment and we are very hopeful and optimistic," said Fo Niemi.
"I have worked with Chief Dagher in the past on a range of issues: racial profiling, hates crimes, mental health, seniors, young people," Niemi said.
"When he was the commander of the station in Saint-Michel, he developed a great track record of being a great communicator, a great leader."
On Wednesday evening, the Longueuil mayor's office issued a statement that congratulated Dagher on the new appointment and said he has left the Longueuil force well-positioned for the years to come.
"We would like to thank Mr. Dagher for all the work accomplished over the past five years, and we wish him the best for the future," the statement says.
The mayor's office said it sees the spread of this "new police culture" as a benefit to the greater metropolitan area and Quebec as a whole.
"We are convinced this appointment will strengthen the ties between the agglomerations of Montreal and Longueuil," the statement says.